Profile pictures are handled differently in SharePoint 2007. In SharePoint 2007 the photo was simply a URL or file location in one of the fields of the User Profile store. So every time it was accessed, SharePoint would have to pull it from the location and resize it. The photo would normally be stored in a person’s personal site. If someone had chosen a very large photo it would take a considerable amount of time to resize each time you went to their profile or view the photo. In SharePoint 2010 the photo is resized when it is uploaded into three different sized thumbnails (144x144, 96x96, and 32x32 pixels each). It then places the thumbnails into a directory named User Photos in the My Site host. One benefit is that other applications can use these thumbnails. One of the prime applications is Exchange. If you set the Mapped Attribute of the Picture property to thumbnailPhoto and set the direction to Export, you can use these photos to populate the contacts in your GAL. That way when you open an email you will see pictures of all the recipients that have populated their My Site profile pictures. You will need to work with your Exchange administrator and Active Directory administrator to make sure everything is setup correctly (primarily permissions).
Another use of these thumbnails is that you can keep multiple My Site hosts in synch (picture wise). For example you could keep an unrelated SharePoint 2007 My Site in synch by placing the URL to the thumbnail created by SharePoint 2010 in the picture profile property. A lot of companies have used these pictures in company directories and other applications and can’t switch to SharePoint 2010 at once. You can also keep profiles in synch with the Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Administration Toolkit which can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=718447d8-0814-427a-81c3-c9c3d84c456e&displaylang=en but you will have to install some updates on your servers (most likely).
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